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[RC] My return to LD - Fireworks 25 - Julienne

On Friday, August 6th, 2004, Matt and I drove to Santa Cruz, CA for the Fireworks Endurance Ride.  After a 3 year hiatus from the endurance/competitive trail world, I planned to ride the 25 miler on Isabella.  We had been conditioning on the trails at Redwood Park and I was confident we were prepared to finish a 25 miler.  I was grateful that my non-horsey boyfriend would be coming along, subjecting himself to a weekend of dirt, horse poop, and a crazy Julienne running around obsessing over horsey details most normal people wouldn?t think twice about.  He did an awesome job with his boyfriend-ly duty by keeping me sane throughout the weekend, carrying horse water back and forth, and holding the fort down while I was gone for 8+ hours (definitely a keeper!).
We arrived at the Santa Cruz Horseman?s Association Fairgrounds at around 3pm, to a flurry of trailers and horses already set up and ready..  it was a very crowded ride, approximately 100 horses entered in the 50 miler, 60 in the 25, and a number of entrants in the Ride and Tie race.  We parked next to a nice guy and his daughter with two bay arabs.  The horses were quite obviously smitten with each other, and kept us entertained all weekend..  the mare had a deep nicker/whinny and her whole body shook (while simultaneously farting) when she called out for her gelding whenever he was away.  Impressive!
We met up with Maddy, the junior I?d be sponsoring in the ride and her cute appy mare, Wicket.  Her horse kept Isabella sane throughout the ride, but before the ride was a different world altogether.  Isabella showed off her airs above ground by leaping up into the air, bucking and crowhopping in front of anyone available to watch.  We definitely need to work on this..  reading through Ridecamp?s archives gave me a few good suggestions.. circling, getting her attention focused on me, etc.  When we had competed in the past, we always had a friend?s steady paint gelding by her side the whole time, but being by herself without her old buddy put her into mania mode.  Not good.
Thankfully Isabella?s brain returned to her once the ride began and she got down to business.  The first portion of the ride was a single track trail through the redwoods and she quickly got down to business.  No big mishaps except for a GIANT leap across a muddy spot along the trail which took me by surprise.  Our CTR training usually keeps us at ground level when crossing mushy spots, but apparently someone told her we were in ?endurance? mode today.  The day was going to be quite hot, so we trotted through the early shaded trails at a steady pace, going as quickly as we could to avoid the heat later on in the day.  The river crossing went smoothly, and the water didn?t even come up to my stirrups!  I had anticipated a much more dramatic crossing.
After we climbed out of the woods, there was a loop we had to complete before the lunchtime vet check.  The trail here was hardpacked, rocky and mostly out in the sun.  Being out on this portion was a little taxing because it was soo hot ? we could see the heat waves rise from the ground and temperatures were into the lower 90s .  We walked most of it because of the heat.  At this point, I was getting a little nervous about the footing.. on this loop there were quite a few stretches with unavoidable rocks and Isabella was barefoot.  I hadn?t anticipated the footing being so rocky.  A year ago she would?ve been able to handle it just fine ? she had been out in pasture and we rode up on the hardpacked, rocky Mt. Diablo trails without a problem (being ½ paso fino, her feet are naturally tough).  All our previous NATRC and endurance rides had also been done barefoot without any problems, but earlier this year, I moved her closer to Berkeley to the Oakland Hills, where pasture isn?t an option and the footing is much softer.  I had to make the choice of putting easyboots on her for this ride (but we hadn?t been training with them on) or letting her go barefoot to see how she went. 
Unfortunately I made the wrong decision.  I walked her into the vet check and noticed she was becoming more sensitive on the rocks..  and the vet affirmed that she was footsore.  He thanked me for not arguing when he said we were going to be pulled which I surprised me.. who would jeopardize their horse?s health further by arguing they wanted to
continue?  ? Until I saw another rider arguing with the judge after her trot out.  Her horse was so tired he couldn?t even trot, but she wanted to go on anyways.  I?m not sure what the whole story was, but I believe she was allowed to go on.. I?m not sure if she passed the final check.  Maddy was able to find Trilby to sponsor her for the remainder of the ride and she completed her first 25 with a few minutes to spare.
So, we were pulled at the 18 mile mark.  Yes, I was disappointed..   with myself for making a wrong decision that hurt my horse.  I felt horrible, but I was also counting my blessings as a lot of horses had been getting pulled for metabolic reasons because of the heat and I heard one horse had to be treated..  I was grateful it wasn?t anything more serious.  I was also proud of the fact that her recoveries throughout the ride were  awesome!  Even through the heat, she would pulse right down after a long stretch of trotting or a long climb. 
As I sat there waiting for the trailer to arrive taking us back to camp, I met some really nice riders who passed through the vet check.  Another fellow rider who was pulled gave me a first person account of the Tevis ride he attended the previous weekend.  We had a nice chat to pass the time while waiting for the trailer.  Another rider who was at the 50 mile hold was telling me about her 100 mile ride experiences (of which I can?t even imagine doing!).  Yet another rider who was pulled (her horse fell and scraped his knees) told me she was jinxed at this ride - last year her horse came up footsore like Isabella and was pulled - he was wearing shoes.  Although I had to wait quite a while until the trailer took us back, the time went by quickly with all the nice people I ran into.  Unbeknownst to me, Matt was sitting worried back at camp, wondering where I was since most of the 25 milers had already returned.
This whole weekend was a great learning experience for me.  I learned that Isabella could handle a faster pace just fine (before we hit the rocks), even in hotter weather.  I learned we?re going to need hoof protection on future rides.  I learned we?re going to need to work on our ride starts (no more free rodeo shows!).  So, until the next ride, Isabella gets time off to be spoiled and pampered as she recuperates and I?m looking into hoof boots.  Thank you to Trisha for putting on a well-managed ride (especially for the number of entrants!!) and all the volunteers who helped out.  Thank you to my sweet awesome boyfriend(who hates getting dirty) for supporting me throughout the weekend. Thanks for reading!!

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